“Damn, that thing is ugly,” Bob said while sipping his coffee. “And you’re planning to bestow this atrocity on someone in our office?”
I laughed. “Yeah, it’s great, isn’t it? They said it was a gag gift exchange. I’ve had this thing since the ballgame last summer. I don’t know what to do with it.”
The ugly atrocity in question was a garden gnome. Not just any garden gnome, but a limited edition San Juan Kickers garden gnome. They handed them out to the first 500 fans at a weekday game last summer. I wanted to believe this was some inept marketing guy’s attempt to get more fans through the gate, but some people seemed excited to get theirs. I would have passed on the hideous thing except my daughter wanted it. Once home, it was placed in the bottom of the linen closet and forgotten until last night when I realized I hadn’t gotten a gift for the office Christmas party.
It was my first office Christmas party for this company. The white elephant gift exchange was anonymous and gag gifts were the norm the guy from the cubicle next to me said. I thought the gnome would work perfectly. It was still in its box and pristine. I couldn’t imagine a better thing to give away.
I put the box back into the gift bag along with a few candy bars to sweeten up the gift and stood to leave. Bob wasn’t coming. He was Jehovah’s Witness and skipped the parties. I can’t imagine he feels left out after seeing the garden gnome.
The meeting room was festive, and everyone was excited to be at a work party and not actually working. I put my bag among the others and grabbed a drink from the refreshment table. After thirty minutes or so of mingling, the boss moved to the front of the room and cleared his throat. The conversation slowly dwindled.
“Merry Christmas everyone! This has been a great year for the company and I’m so glad to be celebrating the holiday with you today. We’re going to begin the gift exchange in a few moments. Find seats so we can figure out the order everyone will grab a gift.”
After much shuffling around, everyone was seated. Then, a hat with folded numbers was passed around. I got number 20, which meant I was more likely than not to get the gift I wanted because I would be able to trade with another person instead of picking a random gift. Hopefully, I wouldn’t be going home with another item to put at the bottom of the linen closet. Still, this was all about gag gifts, so maybe.
The person who drew number one was the office administrator. Everyone loved her, including me, and I hoped she avoided my bag. Luckily, she took a small, wrapped box that held a pretty little bracelet with morse code beading that spelled out “I’m Awesome”. Ok, not much of a gag, but cute.
The next person picked the biggest gift bag. Inside was a matching fuzzy robe and slippers. The HR rep who got them said he would give them to his wife if no one took the gift from him.
A few more people took their gifts and I was growing more and more concerned. None of the gifts fell into the category I would call “gag” gifts so far. I leaned to the person next to me.
“I thought these were supposed to be gag gifts.”
“Oh, no, they can be, but they don’t have to be. A few of these will be funny, but more cute funny than haha funny,” he said.
I nodded. My gift might not go over too well, I thought to myself.
The next person took my gift, and I could tell my worries were correct. The gnome came out and there were a lot of exclamations of how awful it was around the table. The woman who got it looked disappointed. She crinkled her nose and set the beast down in front of her. Her only hope was there might be a crazy fan of the Kickers or garden gnomes somewhere at the table. I felt awful, but at least the exchange was anonymous.
The next day, Bob stepped into my cubicle.
“I heard the gnome went over well.”
“Really? People are talking about it?”
“Yeah, they don’t know you gave it, but they were disgusted by it. I would go with a nice candle next year.”
I nodded. That would be a better idea.
The next year, I wandered into the office Christmas party once more. I was prepared this year. I had a candle ready to go, lavender. I wasn’t going to disappoint anyone.
When it was my turn to grab a gift, I picked up an unassuming gift bag. I reached in and pulled out a wrapped box.
“Oh, it’s double wrapped. Must be special,” the administrator said in a teasing voice.
I laughed and proceeded to rip off the paper. I sat back in my chair as everyone around me laughed at the gift. I certainly deserved this. The gnome had come back home.